Melk and Dürnstein, Austria
European River Boat Cruise - September 2007
In August and September of 2007, Kathy and I took a river boat trip from
Amsterdam to Budapest - a trip of over 1,100 miles. We were on the Rhine River,
Main River, Rhine-Main-Danube Canal, and the Danube River. Among other places,
we visited Cologne, Rudesheim, Mainz, Wertheim, Rothenburg, Nuremberg, Regensburg
and Passau in Germany. We also stopped in Melk and Vienna in Austria, Bratislava,
Slovakia and Budapest, Hungary. The pictures that are in the galleries are the
same ones that I used in the book that I made after the trip.
Some of fondest memories of the trip were the castles above the rivers, the
Gutenberg Museum, hearing Bach's Toccata and Fugue in D-minor played on the
largest organ in Europe, seeing the works of Gustav Klimt, hearing a Mozart
and Strauss concert in Vienna and being in the small medieval towns in Germany.
The things that kept the trip from being an ideal vacation included: too
much cruising during the day (on a boat with small cabins and limited public
places), not having access to the sun deck on some days because of low bridges
(the awning was down and most chairs were removed), cooler weather than we
expected and uneven quality of the food.
If you want to read the day by day details of the trip, you can download the
journal that I kept while we were there.
During the two and a half week trip we visited:
We spent four days in Amsterdam before heading down river for Cologne. We especially
enjoyed our trip to the flower auction, the cheese market and the architecture
of Michel de Klerk. And of course the canals are always interesting.
After exploring Amsterdam for four days, we headed down a canal and into the
Rhine on our way towards Cologne. We toured the cathedral in Cologne. It is
the tallest Gothic cathedral in northern Europe.
After Cologne, we headed for Rüdesheim, seeing many castles along the way. In
Rüdesheim we wandered the narrow streets and took a cable car to the top of the
nearby mountain (tall hill).
Next it was on to Mainz. We toured the town (reconstructed after WW II) and
the Guttenberg museum. Afterward we turned into the Main river and had a
glass blowing demonstration in the afternoon. The awning on the sun deck was
lowered because we would be going under low bridges on the Main-Danube canal.
In Wertheim we explored the quaint town center with its offset houses and
lovely rose gardens. I bought a vase from the son of the glassblower who
had given the demonstration the day before. Then we cruised on down the Main
river and went through several more locks.
We boarded busses for the trip to Rothenburg where we had a typical German
lunch (bratwurst, sauerkraut and mashed potatoes) in a local restaurant. Then
we walked into the center of this medieval city. One of the stone protection
walls was from the 1100s.
The next morning we went under some very low bridges and the captain allowed
us to be on top to watch. It was a little scary when we cleared by only a few
inches. After lunch we had a bus tour to see the parade grounds where the Nazi
troops assembled and the Palace of Justice where the Nuremburg trials were held.
Then we saw much more of the medieval areas by walking down from the castle to
the center of town where there was a gold painted fountain.
The city of Regensburg is almost 2000 years old - founded by the Romans as
the northern boundary of their empire. There is a 900 year old stone bridge
over the Danube. We had a walking tour of the city (where the Pope had been
the year before). The cathedral here is very much like the one in Cologne,
only slightly smaller. We also went into the Rococo Collegiate Church of Our
Lady, which has an interesting white interior. In the evening, back on the
boat, there was local Bavarian dancing which, turned out to be somewhat boring.
- Passau, Germany.
We had a walking tour of Passau (in the rain) and of St. Stephan's cathedral.
The cathedral dates from 1688 and is one of the largest Baroque cathedrals in
Europe. The organ is the largest pipe organ in Europe with more than 17,000
pipes. At noon we heard an organ recital where one of the pieces played was
Bach's Toccata and Fugue in D-minor. It was very impressive.
After lunch we set sail for Linz, Austria. The weather cleared for a while.
We had sun and took pictures from the sun deck. At 5:30 we had a wine tasting
event that was fun and interesting.
- Melk and Dürnstein, Austria.
In the morning on the way to Melk, we cruised the Danube and took pictures with mist rising
over the water. Then there was a lecture on the European Union. At 10:30 we had
"früschoppen", German specialties (sausages, pretzels, sauerkraut) and beer. When we
got to Melk we toured Melk Abbey. The abbey started out as the residence of the ruling
Babenberg family. Later it became a Benedictine monastery in 1089, founded by
Leopold II. Stift Melk is one of Europe's great cultural heritage sites. The
church inside the Abbey is magnificent.
In the afternoon we cruised the Wachau Valley. In the late afternoon we
arrived at Dürnstein. After dinner, we walked into town and explored. We were
really sorry that we had not been here in the daytime to enjoy this beautiful town.
- Vienna, Austria.
Our bus tour of Vienna took us past many palaces and impressive buildings
along the ring road. Most of these were commissioned by Kaiser Franz Joseph I
in the second half of the nineteenth century. Next we went on a tour of Belvedere
Palace, which is now a museum. We saw a lot of original paintings by Gustav
Klimt, including "The Kiss", one of Kathy's favorites. In the gift shop we
bought some prints and coasters of Klimt's work. Next we explored
St. Stephen's Cathedral on our own. The Pope had been here the previous Sunday
(September 9th). I bought a candle with the Pope's image on it for Audrey.
The candles were in commemoration of the Pope's visit. We rounded out our morning
in Vienna with a visit to the Sacher Hotel; we had a Sacher Torte at the Sacher Café.
In the evening we came back into the city for a concert. This is a concert
that is put on for tourists, not the Vienna Philharmonic. But it was quite
good. The Orchestra consisted of a piano, bass, cello, viola, 3 violins, an
oboe and a flute. The first half of the program was all Mozart, including
"Eine Kline Nacht Music". There was also ballet and opera. The second half
was all Strauss - again including ballet and opera.
- Bratislava, Slovakia.
When we visited Bratislava, the things that interested me the most were
the very modern suspension bridges across the Danube - so the bridges are
the things that I took pictures of. After spending the morning in Bratislava
we set sail for Budapest.
- Budapest, Hungary.
At about 10:00 PM we sailed into Budapest; it was a magnificent sight
with all of the buildings and monuments lit up. Later another boat rafted
up to us and blocked our view.
At 9:00 AM we went on a city tour (on busses) around both Buda and Pest.
First in Pest we went to Heroes' Square and took pictures of the statues.
Then we crossed the bridge to Buda and went up the hill to the castle complex
and looked across the river to the parliament buildings. The Matthias Church
is also on the hill. Though not on the tour, Kathy and I attached ourselves to
a tour group that was going in (we didn't have Hungarian Florints for the
admission). The inside was magnificent and very different from the other
churches that we had visited. You could see the eastern influence in the
muted designs on the walls. Kathy bought a reproduction of one of the
paintings (an icon on wood).